Three is ECU’s magic number

Published 2:55 am Tuesday, February 10, 2009

By Staff
Commentary by Brian Haines, Sports Writer
Abrams emerging as a legitimate third scorer for Pirates
Being asked to play second fiddle is deemed to be an insult, and a third fiddle is about as useless as an extra speaker on the headset of an iPod.
However, for the Pirates, having a third fiddle has never been more important, and when all three are playing it has led to sweet music for East Carolina.
The role of the third scorer on a basketball team is a vital one, and ECU may have finally found one in Jamar Abrams.
For the course of the season, senior guards Sam Hinnant (15.4 ppg.) and James Legan (12.6 ppg.) have had the burden of the Pirates’ offense fall on their shoulders. Some nights it has worked out, some nights it hasn’t.
Brock Young, ECU’s third leading scorer at 11 points per game, has shown he can score, but the sophomore point guard contributes more to the team in the role of facilitator as opposed to point scorer.
Every competitive team has at least one player it can rely on to put points on the board, good teams have two. However, a team with a consistent third scorer can be flat out dangerous.
That was never more evident than Saturday night when ECU (12-10, 4-5) lit up the scoreboard against UCF (15-8, 5-4).
The Pirates’ victory over the Knights was their best overall team effort all season. Offensively, ECU was on fire as it hit on 62.5 percent of its three-point shots (15-24) and 63 percent of its shots from the floor (29-46). Of the Pirates’ 29 field goals, 23 were assisted on; it doesn’t get much better than that.
The person who has become most acclimated with East Carolina’s offense of late is Abrams.
The 6-6 Abrams has been playing out of position all season at power forward, but has looked more comfortable in recent games and has begun to assert himself on offense.
Early in the year, Abrams would defer to his teammates, only scoring on put-backs or when the offense was in a grind and someone needed to take a shot.
As the season has progressed so has the young forward, and Abrams has stepped up to become the third scoring option the Pirates have desperately needed.
In East Carolina’s first six games of the season, Abrams had scored a total of 29 points. On Saturday, Abrams shot 10-12 from the floor for a career-high 25 points.
In ECU’s last six games Abrams is averaging 14.5 points a night, and has scored in double-figures in each except for one.
The Pirates’ forward has increased his scoring average to nearly 10 points per contest (9.9), while pulling down 4.8 rebound a night.
Abrams is a chiseled 6-6, 205 pounds, and most nights he is guarding a bigger opponent. That means is that there is a potential mismatch on both sides of the floor for most the Pirates’ games.
Defensively, Abrams has to compete against a player that could potentially exploit him on the block, but offensively Abrams versatile style of play is a tough cover for any opposing power forward.
Abrams’ physical nature allows him to bang with the bigger players down low so on defense the mismatch is a slight one. On offense, he has the capability to step out and drain threes and can also put the ball on the floor, which tips the scales in the East Carolina’s favor.
The Pirates only need to win three out of their next seven games to secure their first regular season above .500 in over a decade. That can happen, but only if Abrams keeps playing his fiddle.